Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, has introduced a series of new tools and safety measures aimed at protecting teenagers from unwanted nude images and predators seeking to exploit them with explicit content. This initiative comes amidst growing concerns regarding the well-being of young users on social media platforms with law enforcement agencies issuing warnings about the increasing prevalence of online “sextortion” cases.

“Companies have a responsibility to ensure the protection of minors who use their platforms. We are hopeful these new measures will increase reporting by minors and curb the circulation of online child exploitation.”

John Shehan, Senior Vice President, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Law Enforcement Raises Alarms About Sextortion Trends

Law enforcement agencies worldwide have raised alarms about the surge in predatory behavior and sextortion incidents targeting children, teenagers, and young adults on social media platforms. The consequences of such crimes can be severe, even fatal, with an alarming rise in cases where young individuals have lost their lives due to sextortion schemes.


The FBI recently issued a warning about a rise in financial sextortion incidents perpetrated by strangers online, particularly targeting teenage males aged 14 to 17. Victims of such schemes often feel isolated, ashamed, and fearful of seeking assistance, leading to a distressing number of suicides among male victims targeted by financially motivated sextortion schemes. The FBI emphasizes the importance of victims understanding that they are not alone and encourages them to seek help from trusted adults.

Meta’s Response: New Features to Combat Sextortion

In response to these challenges, Meta announced that Instagram will soon pilot features designed to safeguard users from financial sextortion. This term refers to a growing trend of blackmail scams, frequently targeting children or teenagers, where predators solicit sexual content and then extort money from the victim by threatening to share the material online.


Introducing the Nudity Filter for Direct Messages

To address this issue and combat the prevalence of unsolicited nude images, Meta revealed plans to introduce a nudity filter for direct messages (DMs) on Instagram. Acknowledging that DMs are sometimes used for sharing or requesting intimate images, including by scammers, this filter will automatically detect nude images, blur them, and prompt users to reconsider sending them. Users will receive messages encouraging them not to feel pressured to respond and reminding them that messages can be unsent if they change their minds.

Empowering Users with Safety Guidelines

The nudity filter, which users can opt to disable to view the image, will also provide guidance and resources on safe practices for sharing sensitive content online, highlighting risks such as unauthorized sharing or screenshotting and the possibility of interacting with impersonators.


Implementation and User Outreach

Meta announced that this feature will be enabled by default for users under 18 globally. Adults will receive notifications encouraging them to activate it. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the cyberbullying research center at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center, praised the initiative for addressing the issue of nude content online in a thoughtful and nuanced manner, reducing exposure to potentially traumatic images while educating users about the associated risks.

Protecting Privacy While Combating Exploitation

Although the nudity filter relies on image analysis, Meta clarified that it will operate using on-device machine learning. This ensures that the company does not have access to users’ images unless they are reported. This approach prioritizes user privacy and security while combating the exploitation of young users on social media platforms. 

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